When you’re deciding on a fly tying vise to buy, you should know that there are plenty of options and that none considerably outshines the others. It’s all a matter of preference.
So you should make sure that you’ve tried out as many fly tying vises as you can, rate them, and then pick the one that suits you best.
But generally, the things you should pay attention to when you’re testing the vise are as follows:
Rotary vs. Non-Rotary Vises
Vises have two variants: rotary and non-rotary vises.
Non-rotary vises are more common and affordable. They have basic functionality but lack extras such as bells and whistles that are typically found on rotary vises.
These extras make rotary vises the more favored option by seasoned anglers and professionals.
This is because they’re practical when it comes to winding the wire or when ribbing is involved.
Moreover, rotary vises give you 360-degree tying flexibility as well as the ability to inspect the fly from different angles.
Rotary vises also give you the ability to rotate the hook for more convenience and ease of use.
So it’s pretty evident that they’re a lot superior to non-rotary vises. However, they’re also a lot more expensive, so if you’re not experienced enough to use one, you might want to start with a more affordable non-rotary vise.
C-Clamp vs. Pedestal Vise
Choosing between a C-clamp and a pedestal vise depends on how you prefer tying your flies.
If you enjoy tying your flies at home before setting out on your fishing trip, then a C-clamp is the better choice for you. This is because they work best when you’re operating from a permanent and stable place.
Contrarily, if you prefer portability and a vise that works in different places, then you should go for a pedestal one.
Pedestal vises are, naturally, more compact, and easier to carry around.
Fly tying vises are usually made from aluminum, steel, or a combination of both.
Aluminum ones are lighter and have better resistance against corrosion, and that’s why they’re the better choice if you’re going for a pedestal fly tying vise that you’ll take into action.
On the other hand, steel vises are more durable, powerful, and offer a better grip.
So if you’re going for a C-clamp vise, it’s better if you get a steel one.
Being heavier and bulkier won’t be a problem as you’re going for stationary use, and you’ll enjoy the power and reliability it has to offer.
You can go for a vise with fixed jaws or interchangeable ones. The latter is superior in that it accommodates a wider range of hooks, consequently providing you with more versatility.
And these allow you to tie tiny midge hooks as well as large saltwater ones, so they cover the entire gamut.
However, they’re more expensive, so if you’re not going to target a wide range of species, go for a fixed-jaw model.
Types of Jaws:
When you’re shopping for vises, you’ll find that there are two types out there: collet and lever-type (parallel clamp) vises.
- Collet Vises: Collet vises use one-piece jaws that resemble tweezers when they’re in the open position. At the rear of the vise barrel, you'll find a lever and cam that you can use to pull and push the jaws into a ring called a collet.
Most collet vises have a sleeker profile, and because of the tremendous force exerted onto the collet, push-collet vises usually come with a substantial metal collar behind the jaws. Some anglers may face problems accessing small hooks due to this design.
- Level-Type (Parallel Clamp) Vises: Lever-type jaws operate in a similar way to a wooden clothespin, as they require two-piece jaws, a fulcrum, and a mechanism to close the jaws.
On some models, a small screw near the tip of the jaws offers adjustment between hook-wire diameters. You can use a thumbscrew or a cam level to close jaws by separating the “tails” of the jaws.
Both designs have advantages and downsides, so it depends on the performance you’re looking to get from your vise.
Types of Vise Bases
When you’re fly fishing, you’re going to target a wide array of species. And this is the main problem when it comes to bases as there’s no one-size-fits-all.
A rule of thumb is, the heavier the base is, the sturdier and more stable it will be.
- Bronze Pocket Base: These are tough, well-designed, and easy to carry around.
- Bronze Traditional Base: Although these are a little bulky, they act as a very stable platform.
- Aluminum Pocket Base: These are small, lightweight, and affordable. However, they only work with small hooks.
The Bobbin Cradle
Not all vises come with a bobbin cradle, but the ones that do offer you more convenience allow you to rest your bobbin between tying sessions.
The good part about this component is that if you don’t have the budget to buy a vise with a bobbin cradle, you can build one yourself.
Although vises have different features, components, and finishes, buying a certain vise won’t guarantee anything if you don’t master the technique, then it won’t be effective.
You have to understand how vises work and know your control or things that hold the feather in a specific way –in other words, lots of practice.